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Music banned by the Third Reich

Sarah Gabriel (soprano) Robin Green (piano) Sunday 17th April 2016 at Old Down Manor

Sarah introduced the programme by explaining that in the 1930’s, the Third Reich considered a lot of music ‘degenerate’.   This included black music, jazz – anything with Jewish connections.   The music performed this evening was either by Jewish composers or had words by Jewish poets. Had history taken a different turn, we would not have been able to experience these wonderful songs today.

The programme opened with settings of poetry by the German/Jewish poet Heinrich Heine

by Schumann, Mendlessohn, Brahms and Schubert.   Seven Early Songs by composer Alban Berg followed when Sarah subtly changed her vocal approach for these Second Viennese School songs.

Three Jewish composers, followed the interval, commencing with five Mahler settings of Fredrick Ruckert poems. Next, five Shakespeare settings Songs of the Clown by Erich Korngold with words taken from Twelfth Night, this time in English. All brought to a charming close with ‘That’s Him’ from Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus. With words by Ogden Nash, this was again in English of course. Sarah again changed her approach, very successfully, for this lighter piece. We were treated to another delightful song by Korngold as an encore.

Some of this music and poetry may not have been familiar to all, but Sarah thoughtfully interspersed the programme with interesting facts and translations, thereby enhancing our enjoyment.

It was a very demanding programme, requiring a high level of vocal, emotional and physical stamina. The ability to portray the inner emotional intensity of German Lieder (art song) requires considerable technique and vocal expertise. All of which must be evenly matched by the accompaniment, which in Lieder, is not just a backing but of equal importance to the vocal line. Here we had sympathetic and sensitive teamwork.

A beautiful young lady, beautifully accompanied, singing beautiful songs, in the beautiful surroundings of Old Down Manor, on a beautiful spring evening – what more could you ask.

Thank you for a lovely evening – more please.

Tessa Sullivan

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